In 2014, former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously attacked then-Vice President Joe Biden as “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” On Thursday, Biden made a major speech criticizing President Trump’s travel ban, warning that it will not stop the spread of the virus and that Trump is racist. That he rejects Trump’s isolationism.
It is a constant theme that Biden has been taking, but he misses the point that Trump wants to slow the spread of the virus and help medical facilities deal with the inflow of cases.
On January 31st, when Trump suspended the entry of all non-US citizens coming from China, Biden attacked Trump as racist. “This is no time for Donald Trump’s record of hysteria and xenophobia – hysterical xenophobia – and fearmongering to lead the way instead of science,” Biden claimed. In Biden’s defense, while the World Health Organization (WHO) had the day before finally classified the coronavirus (COVID-19) as a global emergency, it also urged countries not to restrict travel or trade.
Earlier this week, Joe Biden attacked Trump as “racist” for retweeting a reference to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” And again, during Biden’s address on the disease on Thursday, he repeated the condemnation. Saying that “Labeling COVID-19 as a foreign virus” was “xenophobia.”
Given the virus originated in China, this seems like a simple factual reference to the origins of the virus. The Spanish Flu got its name because news coverage at the time made it seem that the virus originated there. Ebola was named after a river in Africa. The Zika virus name came from a forest in Africa. But no one accuses the media of being “racist” and anti-black every time they refer to the Ebola or Zika viruses. Or that they are anti-Hispanic when they use the term “Spanish Flu.”
In late January, when the US State Department advised Americans against traveling to China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the disease outbreak, Biden attacked this announcement saying: “the steps [Trump] has taken as president have only weakened our capacity to respond.”
Only Israel and Australia imposed travel moratoriums as soon as the US did. But by just a few days later, on February 2nd, 2020, 22 countries had imposed some form of travel restrictions on people coming from China. Over 40 countries had bans in place by the end of February.
Limiting contact with countries that have much higher infection and death rates is a commonsense move.
Biden is correct that Trump’s travel ban won’t stop the spread of the virus, but that isn’t the reason for the ban. It is to slow the spread of the disease and make the coming onslaught of patients more manageable.
There are about 95,000 staffed intensive care unit beds in the US. Our system will probably be inadequate to handle the inflow of patients. On average, about two-thirds of those beds are already taking care of patients at any given time, with more beds filled during winter months. Delaying some cases until spring will make it possible to provide medical care to more people who contract the virus. It is also an attempt to buy time for determining treatments that might help save lives.
With 1,016 deaths in Italy as of March 12th, compared to the 40 in the US, Italy’s medical system hasn’t been able to meet the burdens it faces. They have to triage patients and decline care to people who they would normally treat if they had the resources. “These are the choices I would have never wanted to make,” Dr. Francesca Mangiatordi told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s somewhat like being in war.”
There have been real problems with the lack of testing for the virus. But here is the irony. Which candidate has warned about the dangers of regulations? Trump or any of the Democratic presidential candidates?
Take what happened with Dr. Helen Y. Chu and her colleagues at the University of Washington and the Seattle Flu Study. They faced one regulatory delay after another in getting permission from the CDC to investigate what has been the deadliest outbreak in the US, accounting for 31 of the 40 deaths. The CDC was insisting that their labs first go through certification for clinical work, a process that would take weeks. But with lives on the line, Chu and her colleagues felt it would be unethical for them not to act, and they began performing coronavirus tests without government approval.
Possibly Biden and other Democrats are so committed to open borders they see restrictions as racist. Just last year in the Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Biden raised his hand in support of decriminalization of the border. When pressed further, he passionately spoke out in favor of not deporting people who were in the US illegally.
Possibly Democrats are primed to criticize Trump no matter what he does. But Trump’s approach is based on solid science, and the Democrats have to bear some responsibility for delays in testing that occurred because of the oppressive regulatory environment that they have continuously advocated.
Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.